Review by RykuXr

"Good and intense action combat, with a few problems."

God of War is among the best games of 2005, games like Resident Evil 4 and Civilization 4. While there are already plenty of hack-n-slash games on the market GoW is better than most, just like Ninja Gaiden. Most gamers and critics picked RE4 as GOTY 2005, but there were a few who thought GoW deserved it more and now you'll find out who's right.

Story: Sure in most games heroes can die at the end of the story, but how many die before the story begins? This is just one of the interesting story elements in GoW. As I said earlier, the story opens with Kratos throwing himself off the highest peak in Greece and committing suicide. A second before Kratos' body impacts you hear the voice of an elderly woman and it cuts off the impact of his death to tell some of what has happened to him. Three weeks prior to this event Athena tells Kratos that if he goes on a quest for the gods to stop Ares (the god of war) from destroying Athens that they will help him and relieve his pain. So Kratos begins his journey for the gods and I would say more, but I don't want to spoil it.

Now the story in GoW isn't very long, but it will take a while before you finally get the whole picture and understand what happened to Kratos. You get one impression of Kratos right at the start, but that view of him will slowly change as you learn more and more about him. There's really only about three or so plot twists, but they change your view of the story greatly.

Audio: Music in GoW is of course Greek type music and while it fits the game perfectly, at the same time it let's you down as well. The main theme is basically a classic, epic, Greek inspired tune and it does sound really good, give you a sense of awe, and fit the tone and mythology of the game to a tee, but there's bad news. When you solve a puzzle you'll hear the main theme, but it doesn't always come in right away or even at the right time. Sometimes you'll hear the theme come in late or sometimes it'll just cut off in the middle of it for no reason and just leave you hanging. There isn't a lot of music in GoW, and it doesn't help that the main theme isn't always doing what it should, but worse than that is that while the music will loop like it should, it also usually just cuts off and all you have to listen to is the wind, Kratos' sandals, and his grunts and groans.

So while the actual music could have been much better, atleast the sound effects and voice acting don't do as bad of a job. When you cut through an enemy you expect to hear pain and anguish and that's exactly what you get. As you slice and dice many many bad guys you'll hear their pain loud and clear, as well as the always enjoyable sound of blood splattering the ground and walls. Of course hearing the bad guys die is nice, but everything else involving sound effects should sound good and thankfully they do. The clink of your Chaos Blades sounds like a real weapon in real life, sand and wind also sound very real and are put to good effect, the sound of water splashing and pounding of course also sounds great, the creaks and groans of ships, and other objects also are very well done.

Anyways the main point is, that if there's any sound effect in the game it sounds really good. Now to move on to the voice acting that is spread throughout the story. Not every game has good voice acting, but thankfully GoW isn't one of them. Kratos sounds gruff, battle-hardened, and angry, just like the badass he truly is. Ares sounds big, menacing, and well, god-like. Medusa and Poseidon also sound perfect, fit the roles very well, and do a convincing job of being gods. Even little side characters like a captain and two sisters are done very well and really just add to the value and believability of the game. Basically besides the mishaps with the music all sound and voice acting are great to listen to and believable.

Graphics: Now while GoW certainly has it's high points graphics would not be one of them. Yes, we know that the Xbox and GameCube can produce better graphics than the PS2, but that doesn't excuse GoW for looking a bit shabby. For one the textures in the game look kind of bad and sometimes too jagged. Character models aren't that good looking either, except of course for the main characters and bosses. The environments look pretty good for the most part, but could use some work as well, sometimes looking too rough and ugly to be in a game this year. Magic effects look pretty good and buildings and temples do look good as well, but there are certain things that just aren't pretty. Blood and gore look really well done, water looks good, and bosses look really good, but it's just hard not to notice how bad other things look. While they aren't the best looking graphics you could do much worse.

These are the in-game graphics of course, and the CG cutscenes in the game look really really good, but any system can produce good CG, so it's not a huge deal. I know it seems I'm giving the graphics a bit of a hard time, but we've all come to expect more from games, not to say that everything looks bad, because some things do look really well done, but other things just aren't quite up to par. A few other things I would like to mention, the CG is not the only pretty thing in the cutscenes, but there's also this stylized art that is just sitting there like a painting and then it comes to life and you see the CG. This is new, unique, and should definitely be used in more games, because it just has such a cool effect.

I wouldn't normally mention this, but I just have to say it. Nudity is usually good well, let me rephrase that, FEMALE nudity is usually good, but surprisingly in GoW it's NOT a good thing. That's right, female nudity is actually a bad thing in this game (even the five whole seconds that you see it in CG isn't that good). Like I said I wouldn't usually bring this up, but not only does all of the nudity (including monsters....that's right monsters have boobies) look really awful, but it's very tasteless and pretty stupid to have it in there at all. This doesn't affect the score in anyway, it just seems so pointless that it's in there.

Gameplay: If you like really cool moves, lots and lots of violence, and blood and gore then GoW's gameplay is sure to make you happy. GoW is played from a third person perspective with a fixed cinematic camera angle for every area, so that means you never have to bother with controlling the camera. This can be a good and bad thing, because while that does mean you can focus more on the action it also means that you can't change the angle if it's a bad one. Thankfully for the most part the angles give you a great view and let you see everything that you need to see and it's rarely any trouble, but there are times when there could've been better angles than there were. Even though the angles can be a bit of a problem sometimes they never really hinder the gameplay. It is nice that the camera is so good, because in a lot of hack-n-slash games it's a really big problem and makes the game a lot less fun.

Since this games main focus is to bring you non-stop and heart-pounding action it's a good thing that it delivers. From the first level to the last your hands will get cramped and you'll have to take a breather from all of the intense fighting that goes on. The moment you start playing you can pull off all these really cool looking, but pretty simple moves and destroy wave after wave of enemies that come pouring in. Your moves range from up close to farther away moves that can drag your foe to you and let you rip them apart in a very brutal fashion. There's a pretty big range of combos and moves that you can pull off even from the start, meaning you can kill enemies almost any way you want to. With the wip-like weapon that is the Chaos Blades (these blades are seared into his arms by chains) there's a lot of variety in your moves and combos that can be used at any time. It's just a blast to have all these moves at the start and of course as you go on you get many more and you can even obtain another weapon later on.

Combos range from easy to pull off to some pretty advanced moves that you get later on, that are a bit harder to pull off, but well worth the effort. This means that for those of you who have trouble pulling off advanced moves can beat the game just using the basic combos and still have lots of fun, while those who love a challenge can use the really advanced moves. So that means that whether you prefer hard moves or easier ones you can have fun and this can please hardcore and casual gamers all at once. That's great, because too many times there are games made for one or the other and of course there are multiple difficulties for unskilled and skilled gamers. At the start of the game you can choose Easy, Normal, and Hard, with Very Hard being unlocked once you beat the game for the first time. The difficulties only affect how hard the combat is, it does not affect the other elements of the game, so if you're not good at some platforming then you'll just have to try and try to get it right.

Another bright point is the variety in the enemies all through GoW. In a pretty good amount of the hack-n-slash games there aren't enough different kinds of enemies, but this is not a problem in GoW. You have your basic soldiers and your basic archers as well, but there's also Hydras, Minotaurs, Harpies, Cerberuses and Cyclops to name a few. Besides those you do have the stronger versions of the soldiers and archers later on and some enemies that are mini-bosses turn into regular enemies as you go on in the game. As you go along not only do the basic enemies become more powerful, but more and more brand new monsters and undead start appearing as well making for lots of intense battles. Not only is there great enemy variety, but every new enemy has a unique look, unique moves and fighting styles, and will take a new strategy to bring it down. Not only are the enemies you run into challenging and fun, but the boss battles are amazing in visuals and scope. Each boss is very different and the fights are not only fun, interesting, and epic, but they're also long too, not drawn out to the point where you wish it were over already, but long in a very good way, the way bosses should be.

There are actually only three boss battles in the entire game, but they pack quite a punch and are very memorable and unique in the way you fight and kill them. Mini-boss battles happen more often and are usually how you're introduced to the new type of enemy that you'll be fighting more often later on. When you kill the bad guys, red, green, or blue orbs will come out of them once they're dead. Red orbs are how you upgrade your magic and weapons, green orbs replenish your health, and blue orbs refill your magic. Now for the most part you can decide how many and what kinds of orbs comes out of enemies by killing them in certain ways. Like for instance if you want more red orbs then string together lots of combos and kill the enemies fast, if you want blue or/and green orbs then you have to do something else. A really cool feature in GoW is this timed-button-mini-game which you can use not only on regular enemies but on bosses as well. When you've hurt the enemy enough a button icon will pop up over there head, then press the button to start the mashing.

Once you've activated the mini-game different buttons and directions to push and/or hold the control stick will pop up over the enemy's head, then you must match the button or control stick movement with the icon over the bad guys head. At first it won't be too hard and you'll have a pretty good amount of time, but later on it will become more difficult to complete the mini-game. If you match all the icons then a very gory and brutal death scene will ensue, for certain enemies only green or blue orbs will pop out or sometimes you'll get more red orbs than you would have if you killed the enemy the regular way. For the most part you can choose to either do the mini-game or just kill them the regular way, but the bosses and some enemies must be killed using the mini-game. As if using the mini-game to kill regular enemies didn't look cool enough then the boss battles are sure to impress. The icons are harder to follow and must be matched more quickly, but the deaths are really cool to look at and of course they must be done to win. Sequences like this have been done in a few other games, but GoW does an amazing job of making it fun, worth your while, and it looks very nice.

Of course all of this is nice, but if the animations didn't look fluid and move smoothly a good bit of the effect would be lost, so thankfully the animations are done quite well. The button mashing mini-game animates smoothly and realistically and blends in with the game nicely, enemies fall, walk, run, throw, swim, and shoot things looking very good and not having forced animations help. When Kratos walks, runs, jumps, climbs, hangs, or even double jumps it all looks fluid and real, and of course the battle animations are amazing and look great. The only animation in the entire game that looks....well weird is when Kratos has to shimmy on a very small ledge and is rubbing up against the wall, it just looks plain wrong and a little bit weird as well. Every enemy, boss, spiked wall, and hinge are very well done and really there's barely anything in the entire game that doesn't animate well. All of the levels are huge and are inspired by Greek mythology and look really cool. You'll see many different areas, from harbors, temples, and deserts to underwater levels.

Not only is there plenty of different and unique levels, but the actual design of the levels is really great as well. The actual puzzles within each level is also really well done, is usually massive and while it's challenging it's also fun and interesting at the same time. How you figure each puzzle out is pretty cool and sometimes you'll hate yourself for not seeing one that's well done, but obvious at the same time. Each puzzle is a lot of fun to figure out and is really unique, it shows that the creators spent a lot of time making these puzzles and it was well worth their time. Once you complete the many puzzles you'll find in each level you really feel like you've accomplished something, which not all games have. Hidden in each level are several different items and chests, some chests are not hidden while others are. The chests that you see quite regularly usually contain green and blue orbs which fully heal or fill your magic bar, but there will also be red orbs sometimes as well, but they're not as common.

The hidden chests aren't too difficult to find as long as you look for them, but you can miss quite a few if you're not careful. In these chests there will be three possible things, one thing found in these chests are Gorgon Eyes and if you collect six of these your health will increase, another item will be Harpie Feathers and if you collect five of these they will increase your magic, and the final thing that can be found in these hidden chests are tons of red orbs that will give you plenty to upgrade your stuff with. It's really not too hard to find every hidden chest and max out your health and magic, but if you don't pay attention to the area you'll miss them. There are a few Gorgon Eyes and Harpies Feathers that you can only get by a special means, but once again they're not hard to come by. Each level has a few other secrets, but I'll let you find those on your own, I wouldn't want to spoil it. You can find a bit more story if you pay attention to the rooms as well, because there are paintings that depict some backstory on events and some of the gods.

So far, the fighting, weapons, levels, puzzles, secrets, bosses, and deaths are all really good, but there is one thing that is a big downside to all of these things and that would be the platforming. That's right, sure a few hack-n-slash games have platforming, but it's usually simple and pretty good, which is not the case with GoW. In any hack-n-slash the main part of the game or sometimes all of the game is about kicking the crap out of tons and tons of enemies, and this is what GoW does very well, but the platforming that is found in the game is not only bad, but it's very difficult and very frustrating. You see up until you hit the platforming you're solving puzzles, finding secrets, and of course killing enemies in very brutal, violent, and bloody ways and then all of a sudden you can't go forward and you want to kill your PS2 and controller because you're stuck on one single piece of platforming. There's not a ton of platforming in the game, but the stuff that is in there is harder than some platforming games and the kind found in GoW is MegaMan hard, which is very difficult.

Now that you've heard about most of the game I'm going to discuss the magic in the game. Usually in hack-n-slash games magic is only in there so that you feel like you have options, but the magic is usually a waste of time and not worth using, however that is not the case here. The way you get your different kinds of magic is from gods who give it to you when you get far enough in the game, so you never have to worry about not finding all of the magic. All magic starts out at level one of course, but it can be upgraded to level three (level five for weapons) which is the max level. By the end of the game you can have all the magic upgraded completely pretty easily, and that is nice since a lot of games don't let you do this. Every spell is very different and will use more and more magic as it's leveled up. There will be times when the only way you'll survive is simply because you have magic, that's how useful it is. Certain situations do call for only magic, but for the most part you'll be using a combination of magic and using the Chaos Blades to wreak havoc. This is just another plus for GoW, because not only is the magic useful, but it's fun and can save your life time and time again, which is pretty uncommon in most hack-n-slash games. Some of the magic includes throwing thunderbolts, casting lightning around you and plenty of others that I won't spoil.

Features: Most of GoW's features are found once you beat the game once, but a few are hidden and some can only be acquired by beating a certain difficulty level. When you beat GoW, you will unlock "God Mode" which is Very Hard mode and if you beat that you'll unlock some secret costumes for Kratos. There's tons of behind the scenes type videos showing you levels that were cut, concept art, interviews with the team, filling in some more story, creature concepts, and many more as well. Besides all of those there's also a "Making Of" video which is very cool and a pretty good length, and when you beat GoW once you'll also unlock a new challenge. The new challenge is called "Challenge of the Gods" and it's ten different situations that will test your reflexes, strategizing, and your skill. These are pretty difficult and provide added length, they're also all very unique and will take you a couple of times of trying to figure out how to beat them, and if you beat all ten you unlock ANOTHER video. Most of the extras are videos, so you'll have lots to watch, but the other extras are really cool as well and add a good amount of value to this game.

Replay: This is one thing that, while it's not as good as other games it does actually have some replay value. If you're more of a hardcore gamer and Normal and Hard mode weren't as much of a challenge as you would've liked it to have been then having "God Mode" adds quite a bit of replay, so that you can fell accomplished. Even if you don't like too much of a challenge then there's still replay to be found withing GoW. Maybe you didn't find all of the secrets and want to go back through, or you want to see how Kratos looks as a cow (please don't ask), it could also be that you just want to experience the ultra violent gameplay and want to kick more evil ass then there's at least one or two more times to go through the game. You might not want to play it all the way through again, but I'm sure you'll want to kill more baddies with your really cool weapons and magic. While going through GoW for the first time on Normal will probably only last the average gamer 9-12 hours those hours are pretty intense.

Overall: If you're not an action fan then GoW is definitely not for you, if you want a really long game then it's also not for you. However if using one of the coolest weapons to come out in a long time (the Chaos Blades), having a game where not only is the magic helpful, but it rocks as well, getting a new and original story, getting to kill lots of different enemies, having cool, original, and unique boss battles, brutally killing anything and anyone who gets in your way, and controlling one hell of an anti-hero badass is what you've been looking for then GoW delivers just that. So the graphics aren't the best (not the worst however), the game isn't the longest, the platforming is difficult and just plain sucks, the music needs improving, and there could've been more combos, but GoW is still really good. The audio in the game is great everything from the grunts and groans of Kratos (and his enemies), to the sound of metal in flesh, is awesome and of course the voice acting is really well done. CG looks great and is used to tell most of the story, so that's good and the unique looking, stylized art is brilliant. Story is interesting and while it won't confuse anyone it's basis and twists are good.

Magic is actually useful in an action game and it's fun to use, so that's a big plus, not only that but the variety is also good. Tons of enemies to kill and use different strategies for each one you meet. Boss battles are long, challenging, unique, and loads of fun to play. All kinds of secrets and upgrades to find and use, the levels are huge and very well designed to really take advantage of the Greek mythology like no other game. The many many different timed button mashing sequences in puzzles and combat are a lot of fun, done well, and they blend in well with the game. Extremely intense and exciting combat is the core of the game, which is good because it's so much fun. Each and every puzzle is different and will have you thinking about how to do it for a good, but not too long of a time. Of course the bloody and ultra violent fighting is awesome and using your arms, legs, and Chaos Blades to rip foes apart and decapitate them in a gory fashion is just so cool I can't even describe it.

Score: 8.8/10. Buy it.

The brutal, gory, intense, and exciting fighting that barely lets up is the driving force behind GoW and it's done so well that I'd still play it with more problems. While visuals, music, and a few other things aren't very good, there's no such thing as a perfect game and hopefully GoW II will improve upon these things. For a price of only $20 or less brand new, the only question that comes to mind is why haven't you bought this game yet?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/05/06

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